Sunday, February 6, 2011

Species spotlight X

Many members of the family Ferussaciidae tend to adopt subterranean or cavernicolous lifestyles. One such species may be found living in areas of clayey soil along the cliffs and beaches of Mellieħa; this is the small and elusive Hohenwartiana hohenwarti (Rossmässler, 1839), which at first glance resembles its relative Ferussacia folliculum (Gmelin, 1791).

Hohenwartiana hohenwarti (Rossmässler, 1839)
Għajn Tuffieħa, Malta

In contrast to Ferussacia, however, the elongated shell of Hohenwartiana is light and thin enough to render the internal organs clearly visible. The streamlined shape allows the animal to easily navigate around the clay fragments in which it lives. After the death of the animal, the shell turns an opaque white and disintegrates relatively quickly.

The specimen above was retrieved from clay for photographic purposes and replaced quickly. My hand in the background gives an idea of the specimen's size.

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